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Dirty Coal Still Supreme, But Wind Surpasses Nuclear Energy In China

Study: With investment, 'wind energy could supply all of China's energy demands by 2030'

Beth Brogan, staff writer

Fujian Datang International Wind Power Development plans to invest up to $952 million to build the first offshore wind farm off China’s southeastern coast. (Photograph:

China's use of wind-generated electricy has overtaken nuclear power to become the third largest energy source in the country.

But wind power still only supplies 2 percent of the country's electricy, and scientists predict the rapid proliferation of coal-fired power plants will likely result in dangerous climate change unless the country invests significant resources in wind.

The China Wind Energy Association predicts the country's newly installed wind power capacity will increase from 14 gigawatts in 2012 to 18 gigawatts in 2013 — "in accordance with the government's efforts to increase its use of renewable energy as a means to reduce carbon emissions and cut reliance on fossil fuels," Li Linghuan, an energy industry analyst at Sublime China Information consultants, told the Global Times Sunday.

In December, the International Energy Agency reported that China's wind power installed capacity could supply 30 percent of its electricty by 2030.

But development of wind power in China has slowed, with only 14 gigawatts of capacity from wind turbines installed in 2012, versus 20.66 gigawatts in 2011. And wind projects are being approved so quickly that the electrical grid may not be able to absorb the increased wind power, resulting in wasted energy, Li said.

And coal-fired power plants supply most of the electricity needs, leading scientists to predict that say climate change is likely, despite the commitment to wind power.

"China is bringing on several coal-fired power plants a week," said Michael McElroy, lead author of a recent study published in the journal Science. And the International Energy Agency report notes that China is likely to surpass the rest of the the world in coal demand within five years.


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But Worldwatch notes that with an investment of $900 billion, new models of wind resources could be as cost effective as coal, and would reduce emissions by 30 percent.

McElroy told Worldwatch:

As China's demand for electricity increases an estimated 10 percent each year, the country is projected to need an additional 800 GW of coal-generated electricity during the next 20 years. With current wind energy payments of 0.4 RMB (US$0.059) per kilowatt-hour, wind energy could displace 23 percent of coal-generated electricity. If so, China would eliminate as much as 0.62 gigatons of annual carbon dioxide emissions, or 9.4 percent of the country's current annual emissions, the study said.

Wind energy could supply all of China's 2030 electricity demands, however, if wind contract prices were increased to 0.516 RMB (US $0.076) per kilowatt-hour, the study said.



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